With nearly 20 cafes and a rapidly growing roster of high-profile partners, Raphael and Sarah Perrier, the husband-and-wife team that runs Kahwa Coffee Roasters, have seen big rewards come from big risks.
Raphael Perrier won’t refer to Starbucks by name. Instead, the Kahwa Coffee Roasters co-founder uses phrases like “big green” to describe the Seattle-based java giant (more on that later).
Kahwa, headquartered in St. Petersburg, is becoming the Starbucks of Florida — a ubiquitous brand that combines a high-quality product with appealing cafes and lucrative partnerships with the likes of HSN, the Tampa Bay Rays, Disney World, Publix and Kathy Ireland, the former supermodel-turned-global-entrepreneur.
‘When you are building a brand, you need to keep in mind that not everyone is going to like the same cup of coffee. But we’ve tried to create something that’s easily accessible.’ Sarah Perrier, co-founder of Kahwa Coffee Roasters
Founded by Raphael Perrier and his wife, Sarah, in 2006, Kahwa has 15 cafes, with four more in development. Its coffee is served in 26 Publix grocery store cafes statewide, as well as high-profile locations including Tampa International Airport, Tampa Convention Center, Epcot Center in Orlando, the Don CeSar Hotel in St. Pete Beach and Armature Works in Tampa. The firm’s packaged coffee is available for sale at more than 800 retail locations.
“I always want to push more, risk more, and Sarah is always asking, ‘How do we get there?’” Raphael says of the core relationship dynamic that has driven Kahwa’s rapid growth. “Everything we’ve done is a risk.”
Raphael worked in coffee sales before opening L’hexagone, a bar and club, in 2002. In 2005, the Perriers sold that business and, instead of socking away some money for a rainy day, invested 100% of the proceeds into starting Kahwa. In the early days, the couple would roast the coffee beans, package them up, do all the paperwork, repair equipment — whatever needed to be done. That included deliveries.
Driving around St. Petersburg on delivery runs, Raphael says he daydreamed about what it would be like to have his product sold at Tropicana Field and on HSN. “Everything we envisioned happened,” Raphael says. “We always had the vision of where we wanted to go.”
That vision includes competing with Starbucks — an audacious goal, to be sure, but if not Kahwa, then who? Dunkin’ has a different target market and value proposition. Krispy Kreme is more focused on donuts as the centerpiece of its branding efforts. Tim Hortons has nearly 5,000 locations, but most are in Canada.
But it takes more than vision and dreams to take on industry titans like Starbucks, let alone fend off local competition. “We also had the experience in the coffee business,” Raphael says. "We had the background. … That helped us a lot."
The Perriers attribute a great deal of their success to simply not taking no for an answer — and to being supremely confident in their product.
“We don’t go back and change our approach,” Raphael says, describing how he and Sarah, both 44, win over skeptics. “We have them come back to us.”
He adds, “We have rarely lost a customer in 13, 14 years in business. But every time we do, we say, ‘OK, no problem. I’m pretty sure we’ll see you again.’ And usually, we do see them again.”
Another key strategy? Picking a lane, preferably one not too narrow, and sticking with it.
“It’s coffee — a subjective thing,” Sarah Perrier says. “When you are building a brand, you need to keep in mind that not everyone is going to like the same cup of coffee. But we’ve tried to create something that’s easily accessible.”
Sarah says customer service, not just personal taste, is also vital for coffee success. That’s why Starbucks is so dominant. “Big green” customers know exactly how they are going to be treated, every time, regardless of which cafe they patronize.
“The whole experience of being in the cafe, … that's usually more of a factor in whether people come back,” she says.
Of course, the COVID-19 crisis has hurt. The pandemic and subsequent business shutdown kept Kahwa’s cafes closed except for drive-thru and takeout service. Five of its cafes had to shut down completely as the company’s revenues plunged 70%. The company had been doing more than $10 million in annual sales, with revenues growing 10-20% year-over-year.
“We kept people employed, as many as we could,” Raphael says of the response to the coronavirus pandemic. “But we had to take drastic measures.”
Some of the company’s 120 employees were furloughed, but everyone is back to work now. Through a combination of its own cash reserves and Payroll Protection Program funds, Kahwa was able to pay employees regardless of whether they could work.
“It’s been a weird time,” Raphael says. “But we’re OK. We’ll make it.”
Sarah and Raphael Perrier:5 Things We Wish Someone Told Us Before Founding Kahwa Coffee Roasting Company
From day one, our vision has been to offer a gathering place for people of all races, backgrounds and political beliefs. A place to come together, peacefully debate differences and dream up solutions. Our goal is to continue to stand with our community in the fight for equality.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Sarah and Raphael Perrier, founders of Kahwa Coffee Roasting Company, a wholesale and retail coffee company based in St. Petersburg, Fl. Founded in 2006. Kahwa has become the largest independent coffee roaster in the state of Florida.
Kahwa’s reputation is built on the quality and consistency of the product. 100% premium quality Arabica beans are selected from different origins around the world, these beans are then blended and skillfully roasted to produce a complex flavor that allows each origin to yield its most distinct palate.
Each blend is roasted and packaged on demand to guarantee quality and freshness.
Kahwa’s wholesale customers skyrocketed in 2008 after receiving the stamp of approval from a world-renowned French chef, Paul Bocuse, who selected Kahwa coffee for his highly esteemed restaurant in Epcot, Chefs de France. That same year, Kahwa’s first retail cafe opened in downtown St.Pete with the goal to create an environment with personalized customer service and a community meeting place where all walks of life can come to socialize.
Today, with 14 retail locations and over 800 wholesale customers, Kahwa is dedicated to expanding its customer base while still maintaining the greatest quality of the product and an exceptional customer service experience.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Raphael:After college, I had no interest in joining the corporate world, so I started working as a barista at a local coffee shop on Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia. Sarah, a professional dancer and instructor at the innovative Koresh Dance Company, would often stop in the cafe on her way to work — I fell for her instantly. Each time she visited, I would make her the most beautiful heart-shaped cappuccinos. Finally, after 6 months and many heart pours, she gave me a chance. This is really where the Kahwa story began.
Over the next several years, I refined the craft of coffee roasting and advanced in the ranks to become a wholesale sales executive. Meanwhile, Sarah’s career was following a similar upward trajectory — she was instrumental in the expansion of the dance school and was named Company and Tour Manager; having honed her business and marketing skills while creating their national tour program. The one constant was our love of coffee and the craft of roasting.
In 2005, Sarah and I decided to make our passion our business. We relocated to her hometown of St. Petersburg, FL where we created Kahwa Coffee.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
It was very challenging for us to launch a coffee brand in an environment filled with corporate restaurants. The Florida market was far behind other markets when it came to caring about the quality of their coffee and supporting a local coffee roaster. We had yet to build our brand identity and many people were not sure if we were still going to be around in a year. Additionally, trust was really hard to gain on the wholesale side of the business. You need to have thick skin to keep hearing “no” over and over again.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
We always believed in ourselves and our products. We knew we had something special from the beginning. The reaction from customers trying our coffee everyday reinforced that belief. At the “grand opening” of our company, one journalist (he was the only one there) sat down with me and said, “What are you doing?!” He thought we were crazy. I told him we were building the biggest coffee company in Florida. That was our goal and we believed it. It is funny when I see him around now — 14 years later, he always reminds me of that day. And I always jokingly say “I told you so!!!”
So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
Things are going really well. We are having tremendous success in all sectors: retail, wholesale, grocery and e-commerce. In 2019, we expanded our operations into a new roasting facility which tripled our capacity. During the first 10 years, we learned to keep pushing forward and never give up. We understood that business is not just a today deal, but a long-term relationship with our customers. Trust is what makes your brand successful and we had to gain that trust. Owning a business is full of the highest highs and the lowest lows, we relish the highs and use the lows as a learning opportunity to not only grow ourselves but our whole company.
During the current crisis, it has been critical that we quickly pivot our focus to sustain our business and even grow into new avenues. For us, this meant speeding up our timeline of expanding our e-commerce business to weeks instead of months as well as introducing a new order-ahead to-go app that was implemented into all of our retail locations in a matter of days. We are using this time to reinvent ourselves in many aspects so when the country starts to re-open, we will be even stronger.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
First, we feel that our customer service is as important as the quality of our product. In our coffee shops, our team members are the key to our success. Not only are they the face of our company but we depend on them to deliver a consistent product and experience to every customer. To ensure this, we provide extensive training when onboarding new baristas. We take great pride in our product — our focus is blends rather than single-origin coffees, that is where art and science meet through our unique blending technique. The skill of finding the perfect mixture of sweetness, acidity, body and bitterness then expertly roasting to capture peak flavor is something we have mastered. This method produces complex flavors and allows each origin to yield its most distinct palate, which has become the Kahwa Coffee signature.
When training our baristas, I always share one particular story to prove the impact our customer service philosophy can have on customers:
Shortly after we opened our second location, a customer approached me to let me know that our coffee was amazing, but our staff was exceptional. He confided that before becoming a Kahwa fan, that he was a customer of Star**** (a.k.a.the green giant). After 10 years of stopping by the same green giant location on a daily basis, the staff would still ask for his name and order. The man decided to wise up and change his local coffee shop — he chose Kahwa. About a month after visiting his neighborhood Kahwa, not only was he greeted by name and a smile as soon as he walked through the doors but his favorite coffee beverage was waiting on the counter shortly after. We believe it’s that personal connection combined with a high-quality product that distinguishes Kahwa from other brands.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
This is a fun industry so keep on believing! While there are a lot of good coffees, there is no such thing as the perfect cup of coffee — because that means something different to each person. The key is consistency in everything you do from your roasting methods and beverages to your menus and customer service. Having high product standards is what builds trust. Never serve a stale bag of beans or mediocre latte, it’s better to throw something out and start again than to give someone a bad experience with your brand.
One of the biggest challenges for me was learning how to trust our team with the brand. In order to grow and not burn out, you need a dedicated team behind you — there’s only so much you can do by yourself. I quickly realized that in order to build trust, intensive and consistent training procedures needed to be implemented. Today, we have an amazing and successful training program with a focus to promote from within.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
My biggest support has always been my wife, Sarah. I often refer to her as my boss because she is the reason why we have grown to what we are today. We make a dynamic duo as I’m usually the one who has the vision and she creates the path for that vision. Sarah is the one behind the scenes making sure we are able to realistically reach our goals. We are in a fantastic adventure together along with our 2 daughters and I would not be here without HER!!
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Since Kahwa’s inception, we have always been huge supporters of giving back to our community — it’s in our DNA. When we relocated to Florida, our community welcomed us with open arms, at that time, we had a very limited budget and found that fundraisers were the best way to showcase our product while giving back. It has always been a signature for our company.
Today, we are involved in over 300 events and donations every year and are always looking for new ways to give back. In 2019, we donated all coffee proceeds from National Coffee Day to local charities focused on food insecurity, and look forward to making this an annual initiative. We teamed up with baseball star, Evan Longoria to create a signature series where all proceeds were donated to various local charities each month. Our most recent collaboration has been with Kathy Ireland who serves as our first Brand Ambassador, a percentage of all sales with this partnership will be donated to the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
Trust & Delegate-In the beginning, it was a big challenge for me to trust employees and partners with our brand. Once I built that trust, it was so much easier to delegate and work collaboratively to grow the company into what it is today.
It’s Not That Easy-Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love my job! However, many people will approach me and say “I wish I had your job” or “It looks so easy”. But it’s not easy at all.
Success Doesn’t Happen Overnight-Our success has taken many years of hard work and dedication. You will not see an immediate gain, but if you have passion, dedication and the mindset that it could take a while, you are more likely to succeed.
Cash Flow Is Key. Your company is only strong financially if you are able to manage your cash flow well. It’s not an easy task — but a necessity.
Adapt-Change can be very difficult for business owners, but learning how to adapt and making necessary changes is key.
No Risk, No Reward
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
From day one, our vision has been to offer a gathering place for people of all races, backgrounds and political beliefs. A place to come together, peacefully debate differences and dream up solutions. Our goal is to continue to stand with our community in the fight for equality.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us
It’s a trend in the restaurant world: Vendors turning to shipping containers to house their food or drink businesses. Most notably in this area,there’s an entire food hall in Tampacomposed of shipping container restaurants. A new food hall in Lakeland also employs shipping containers.
And now one of Tampa Bay’s homegrown coffee purveyors is doing the same thing. Kahwa Coffee has announced its newest location will be comprised of three reclaimed shipping containers in St. Petersburg.
“We hope this new concept will inspire the community to look into ways of reducing their carbon footprint," said Raphael Perrier, co-owner of Kahwa Coffee, in a statement. “For us, this was a great opportunity to do just that for Kahwa. Shipping containers are not only fun and cost-effective, but they are a fantastic alternative to a new build, making them extremely eco-friendly.”
The cafe, which will serve Kahwa’s locally roasted coffee, will have outdoor seating and a drive-through for customers on the go. It’s coming to the 66th block of Fourth Street N, and is set to open this summer.
ST. PETERSBURG — Raw coffee beans are to Raphael Perrier what grapes are to a winemaker.
The coffee bean roasting process is a lot like wine making, according to the co-founder of local chain Kahwa Coffee. The aging process is much shorter — mere days, not years — but just as thoughtfully orchestrated to create the right flavors, he said.
With a massive coffee roaster rattling behind him, Perrier pried the lid off a large plastic bin, revealing thousands of dark beans. They were “resting,” he said.
“A lot of people think the best a coffee will taste is with beans that are just out of the roaster,” said Perrier.
“But you want to give it between 24 and 72 hours," he said, scooping up a handful of espresso beans that gleamed from hints of oil.
Raphael Perrier and his wife, Sarah Perrier, founded Kahwa when Starbucks was firming itself up as the world’s dominate coffee chain. By 2005, the Seattle chain had more than 10,000 locations.
That same year, the Perriers began their own scrappy operation. Fifteen years later, the couple is still riding on caffeine, tweaking their blends and growing as a leading roaster in Florida.
They even have four new stores in the works, cementing Kahwa as the area’s largest independent chain of coffee shops.
In the center of Kahwa’s warehouse at 3070 44th Ave N last week, dozens of plastic tubs full of coffee beans sat ready to be distributed around town and beyond. Some of the beans would be ground up and packaged in serving sizes for the 850 hotels — as far away as Utah and the Turks and Caicos Islands — that offer Kahwa to their guests. Most would remain as whole beans, either to be packaged in bags sold on shelves or ground fresh at one of 15 local coffee shops.
Raphael and Sarah opened the first Kahwa Coffee shop in St. Petersburg in 2008. The two started earlier as coffee wholesalers, but Raphael had a history as a barista. They chose the name Kahwa because it’s similar to coffee’s Arabic name, qawah, and because coffee was first discovered in the Kaffa area of Ethiopia more than 1,000 years ago.
They’ve kept up with shoppers’ tastes by stepping into the canned coffee market with nitro and cold brew. The market exploded and is expected to continue growing.
But Kahwa’s bread and butter is its signature roasts.
“We focus more on blends, not single-origin coffee,” Raphael said during a tour of the warehouse and headquarters.
It’s a science to get the combination of sweetness, acidity and bitterness just right. Kahwa’s blends combine beans from around the world to create their custom flavors.
The Perriers have grown their business alongside American’s ever-growing thirst for coffee. In 2017, about $2.6 billion in liquid coffee was sold — $1 billion more than was solid in 2013, according to market data compiled by Statista. In that same period, dry coffee bean sales also grew by about $1 billion, to roughly $9.4 billion in 2017.
Since its start as a two-person operation, Kahwa has more than tripled its warehouse space. The Perriers opened their current nearly 20,000-square-foot space about a year ago. They now have more than 200 employees. They’ve added a second roaster that prepares about 132 pounds of coffee per load. In total, their team roasts about about 7,000 pounds of coffee beans per week.
“I remember early, driving around doing deliveries thinking, ‘if I could be in Publix, sell on HSN and be at the Rays’ stadium,'" Raphael Perrier said, trailing off. “Now I can say done, done and done.”
Publix cafes use Kahwa coffee and the new GreenWise Market locations have Kahwa cold brew on tap. Florida Whole Foods stores sell Kahwa Coffee in the bulk section. Kahwa is also the official coffee of the Valspar Championship, the golf tournament that takes place this March at Innisbrook Resort.
Although Starbucks and Dunkin’ still dominate the market, the demand for coffee has left room for some independents to thrive. But the local scene continues to get more competitive. Other local chains such as Buddy Brew and Blind Tiger have been steadily growing their own footprints, although neither has crossed the bay into Pinellas County yet. And there are the neighborhood spots like Black Crow and King State that have loyal fans.
In early 2018, Kahwa experimented with opening a Miami location by taking over a coffee shop from another operator. It soon pulled the plug on South Florida.
“We didn’t have the brand recognition we needed,” Sarah Perrier said. She called it a valuable learning experience.
Now their expansion plans are focused on Tampa Bay and Sarasota. The couple said rather than jump across the state, they’ll expand from their core locations outward.
Up next are new shops in St. Petersburg, Bradenton, Casey Key and Dunedin. The Perriers declined to disclose the exact locations as they work through finalizing leases and building permits.
But like any modern retailer, Kahwa’s focus isn’t just on brick-and-mortar sales. They recently grew their online ordering options with a subscription service that ships coffee to customers’ homes every 30, 45 or 60 days.
From the beans to the bags, Kahwa does everything in-house from its headquarters. The bean roasting never really stops. At most, they have a week’s worth of stock on hand.
“We do that to make sure it’s always fresh,” Sarah said.
Times senior researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.
Pay It Forward this National Coffee Day at all Kahwa Coffee Cafés
ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. (September 25, 2019) – In celebration of National Coffee Day, Kahwa Coffee Roasting Company, the largest independent coffee roaster in the state of Florida, is giving their customers a chance to give back to the community where they live. On Sunday, September 29, 2019, 100% of proceeds from every coffee and tea drink sold at each Kahwa café location will be donated to one of three partner charities: Blessings in a Backpack at all Pinellas County locations; Where Love Grows at all Hillsborough County locations; and All Faiths Food Bank at all Sarasota County locations.
“We are very excited to be working with three outstanding charities that each work tirelessly to help end the hunger crisis in our community,” said Sarah Perrier, co-owner of Kahwa Coffee. “In lieu of the standard National Coffee Day discounts, we wanted to pay it forward and bring awareness not only to the issue of hunger in each county, but to showcase these charities and the amazing work they do day-in and day-out. To maximize support, each charity has been assigned to one of three counties where our Kahwa cafés are located.”
Pinellas County Charity – Blessings in a Backpack
Blessings in a Backpack is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing children with a backpack of food to take home for 38 weekends during the school year. The charity was formed in 2013 by retired school teacher, Margaret Holler and her husband Carl. The Pinellas-based program currently serves more than 150 children. The goal of the program is to help the participating families realize remarkable improvement in their daily lives. The results can be manyfold, in addition to no longer feeling hunger pangs, children find it easier to learn in school, are more confident, secure and are less likely to get into trouble. All proceeds from coffee and tea drink sales at the Kahwa cafés in Pinellas County will go to food and supplies for the weekend backpacks.
Hillsborough County Charity – Where Love Grows
Where Love Grows was founded in 2013 by Vicky Anzalone who was inspired to give back after suffering health challenges. This non-profit organization was established with one goal in mind-to assist the 28% of children in Hillsborough County living with food insecurity. Where Love Grows prepares and serves an average of 300 meals per month at local Boys and Girls Clubs and other organizations that support the needs of children in our community. Family dinner nights and mobile cooking classes hosted by the Hillsborough program have proven to be an enriching experience for both the families attending and the volunteers serving the meals, connections are made and bonds are created that last well beyond the dinner event. All proceeds from coffee and tea drink sales at the Kahwa Cafés in Hillsborough County will go to food and supplies for meals.
Sarasota County Charity – All Faiths Food Bank
All Faiths Food Bank Sarasota County was formed in 1989 by a group of individuals who, through their respective organizations, were previously addressing hunger in the local community. With 37% of households in Sarasota struggling to afford even their basic needs and All Faiths Food Bank as the only food bank serving the county residents, the non-profit organization is an essential resource to the food insecure community. The Sarasota organization proved to be prolific in their 2018 outreach and distributed 10.5 million pounds of food and served up 8.75 million meals to children, families, seniors and veterans. All proceeds from coffee drink sales at the Kahwa cafés in Sarasota County will go to food and supplies for meals.
For over 14 years, the Kahwa Coffee Roasting Company has been an active member of the greater Tampa Bay community. Charity and giving back are an integral part of the company DNA, which is why, this year, on National Coffee Day, Kahwa encourages residents to join in the fight against local hunger by purchasing coffee from any Kahwa location on Sunday, September 29, 2019.
About Kahwa Coffee:
Kahwa Coffee Roasting Company is a wholesale and retail coffee company based in St. Petersburg, Fl. Founded in 2006 by Sarah and Raphael Perrier, Kahwa has become the largest independent coffee roaster in the state of Florida. Kahwa’s reputation is built on quality and consistency of the product. 100% premium quality Arabica beans are selected from different origins around the world, these beans are then blended and skillfully roasted to produce a complex flavor that allows each origin to yield its most distinct palate. Each blend is roasted and packaged on demand to guarantee quality and freshness. Kahwa’s wholesale customers skyrocketed in 2008 after receiving the stamp of approval from world-renowned French chef, Paul Bocuse, who selected Kahwa coffee for his highly esteemed restaurant in Epcot, Chefs de France. That same year, Kahwa’s first retail café opened in downtown St.Pete with the goal to create an environment with personalized customer service and a community meeting place where all walks of life can come to socialize. Today, with 15 retail locations and over 800 wholesale customers, Kahwa is dedicated to expanding its customer base while still maintaining the greatest quality of the product and an exceptional customer service experience. For more information, visit www.kahwacoffee.com. Stay connected to Kahwa:facebook.com/kahwacoffee and @KahwaCoffee on Twitter and Instagram.
Coffee and art go side by side these days at a downtown coffee shop.
When Kahwa Coffee opened on Second Street in 2016, the store began the custom of displaying the works of local artists. Pieces ranging in sizes, mediums and aesthetics have transformed the coffee shop’s white walls into a canvas for the community.
“Coffee culture is becoming a huge thing in Sarasota, and the fact that we can combine that with local artists is really awesome,” Kahwa Store Manager Lindsay Olson said.
Patrons of the coffee shop are so hip to the idea that Olson said regulars come in the last two days of each month anxiously awaiting the next artist to be displayed.
Booked through the end of 2020, the coffee shop has become a hot ticket for local artists looking to showcase their work. Some artists have even waited more than a year to be displayed.
Charlotte Corker, a sophomore studying game art at Ringling College, signed up 14 months ago, right before she began her freshman year of college.
Now she’s Kahwa’s September artist of the month.
Although she has had work displayed in a few high school shows, Kahwa is the 18-year-old’s first-ever solo show.
“[This] has been very validating for me as an artist,” Corker said. “I want to share my art with the world, and this has given me a platform to do so.”
Her art consists of black, white and gold mixed media paintings that depict animal bones and human figures. The coloring matches that of Kahwa’s interior design, but Corker said that wasn’t intentional. It just worked out that way.
To differentiate her personal art from her professional school art, Corker uses her middle name, Lennox, to sign her artwork. Corker also prefers to use an androgynous name for her personal art because she said it can be more difficult for women to be recognized in the art world.
Raised on Long Island, N.Y., Corker grew up surrounded by art. Beginning at age 2 with finger painting, she said art was an activity she could tackle on her own without help from others.
“Art was something I could do by myself, and I could see progress, which I liked,” Corker said. “It was a way of expressing myself that other endeavors couldn’t capture.”
Corker’s pieces are for sale and range in price from $60 to $175. All proceeds from the show go directly to the artist, Olson said.
Artists interested in joining the wait list for the chance to display their art at Kahwa should go in and talk with one of the baristas, Olson said. Other than a prohibition on nudity, the criteria for artwork is open for artists to explore.
“[Artists should] let it be whatever you think is going to look awesome in the space,” Olson said. “We’re really open.”
In January, Kahwa moved into a 20,000-square-foot production facility in St. Petersburg, more than three times the size of the company’s previous space. It’s grown both its consumer and business-to-business operations. The 13-year-old Kahwa has 15 retail locations and 750 wholesale accounts, as well as a growing grocery store presence.
Now, the biggest challenge is finding workers to staff its retail stores, work in production and fill corporate jobs, said Raphael Perrier, who co-owns Kahwa with his wife, Sarah Perrier.
“We’re growing so fast we need people to work for us,” Perrier said at 1 Million Cups St. Petersburg, where the company provides free coffee every week. “It’s a great economy right now, I guess everyone is saying, but it’s also a terrible economy to hire people.”
One key area of growth has been in grocery stores. Local coffee companies increasingly are moving into supermarkets, as the public becomes more educated on specialty coffee,Forbesreported.
Kahwa coffee is served in 15 Publix Super Markets in-store cafes, and the company has a presence in 25 Publix stores, Perrier said, through the in-store cafes or on the shelves, where bags of Kahwa coffee are sold. It’s also in nine Whole Foods Markets in the Tampa-St. Pete area, and will be going to all of the 23 Whole Foods statewide. The company recently introduced its products in all 27 Lucky’s Markets in Florida, and is talking to The Fresh Market, Perrier said.
“It’s a business that we keep on pushing,” Perrier said. “It’s not new in the coffee business, but it is for us. We wanted to make sure before we did that, that our name was big enough to be able to sell coffee. It’s one thing to be on the shelves and sit there. It’s another thing to get on the shelves and actually sell the coffee.”
“We’re not in a rush. It’s not something we need. A lot of companies, when they do a capital raise, they need it. We don’t need it, we just want to do it to get to the next level. It’s almost done,” Perrier said.
As the company grows, it’s putting increased focus on philanthropy, Sarah Perrier said. Instead of giving away free coffee on National Coffee Day on Sept. 29, Kahwa donated $10,000, the proceeds from that day’s sales, to three local nonprofit organizations, she said.
The nonprofits were Where Love Grows, Blessings in a Backpack Pinellas County and All Faiths Food Bank, according to Kahwa’s Facebook page.
St. Petersburg'sKahwa Coffeeis the latest local roaster to launch ready-to-drink cold brew in cans. Late last week, Kahwa announced the two new additions to its lineup of caffeinated products — traditional cold brew and nitro brew — on social media.
"FINALLY, coffee that tastes amazing in a can!" reads a Dec. 21Instagram postfrom Kahwa. "Our team has been busy perfecting the tastiest can of Cold Brew and Nitro Brew coffee, and we have done it! Stay tuned to see where you can pick these up later today!"
A couple of locations that've started carrying the cans are both Rollin' Oats stores in St. Pete and South Tampa. Each cold brew is priced at $3.99.
Husband-and-wife team Raphael and Sarah Perrier founded Kahwa in 2006. With more than 800 hospitality partners, grocery chains and other destinations carrying its signature blends, the roaster operates 15 cafes across the state.
KahwaCoffee RoastingAnother popular Tampa Bay chain, Kahwa has a handful of locations in the area. The name is a spin on the Arabic word for coffee (“qawha”). It specializes in one-of-a-kind blends of single-origin beans from countries around the world, and the menu offers the usual line-up, including cappuccinos, lattes, macchiatos, Americanos and more. There’s also a flavored drink of the month, and each one can be made with cow or almond milk. The space has an industrial-chic vibe—concrete floors with minimal decrations—and shaded outdoor seating. The nitro cold brew is the region’s best.8317MarketSt., Bradenton, (941) 351-1551; inside University Town Center, 140 University Town Center Drive, (941) 248-3300; 1487 Second St., Sarasota,(941)203-8971; and coming soon to the Shops at Casey Key;kahwacoffee.com.$
Twelve-year-old Florida-based coffee roasting company and retailerKahwa Coffeehas landed a deal with the regional supermarket chainPublix, with a target of 130 in-store cafe openings by the end of this year throughout the Southeast, according to an announcement from Kahwa.
The Publix cafes featuring Kahwa coffees will be strategically placed near the entrance of each participating Publix, offering retail display space and a drinks menu that includes a new blend created specifically for the venture called Cubano.
It’s a major deal Raphael and Sarah Perrier, who founded the roasting company in St. Petersburg 2005 before opening the first cafe in 2006. The company has expanded itsproduction capabilities and now operates 12 cafes — all but one Miami location are in the Miami/St. Pete market — while also supplying some 800 restaurant and other wholesale accounts, according to the company.
“We are absolutely over the moon that Publix is working with a local Florida roaster,” Raphael Perrier said in the company announcement. “Consumers like to enjoy coffee as they shop and tasting the product is the best opportunity to create a lifelong customer and drive sales for Publix.”
Publix operates more than 1,100 grocery stores in seven Southeastern states. At least 18 of those stores currentlyhave a Starbucks-branded cafe on premises, and the company says on its website that four more Publix stores with Starbucks bars are “coming soon.”
The first Kahwa cafes in Publix locations are planned for Winter Park and Bradenton, both in Florida.
Want to sip some local coffee while you shop at Publix? In Bradenton, now you can.
The grocery chain and Tampa-based Kahwa Coffee have partnered to bring Kahwa’s product to two existing Publix bakery cafes in Florida, including one at 11205 E. State Road 70 in Bradenton. The concept could expand to other existing stores and some new ones, Publix spokesman Brian West said, but it’s still in its pilot stages. Kahwa is scheduled to come to a third Publix bakery cafe in Virginia soon.
“They have a great product, and our customers like it,” West said. “From that vantage point, it seems to make good business sense.”
Raphael Perrier, co-founder of Kahwa Coffee, said he plans to be in 130 Publix stores across the Southeast within the next six months. The company is also opening a new 1,200-square-foot cafe with a drive-thru in the Northwest Promenade at 6705 Manatee Ave. West in Bradenton.
Perrier said he hopes the Publix partnership will generate lots of exposure for Kahwa, which opened its roastery and first store in 2006. The chain currently has 12 locations in Florida.
“It’s a golden opportunity to expand the brand outside the Florida market,” Perrier said.
The in-store cafes are staffed with Publix employees, but Kahwa is training them, Perrier said. Customers can pick from items on Kahwa’s full menu, including lattes, cappuccinos and espressos, and purchase coffee, cold brew and k-cups to bring home.
Kahwa is also planning stores in the International Mall in Tampa and in the Mall at University Town Center. The new Bradenton store on Manatee Avenue West will open in February or March of next year.
“We believe that there’s a good demand for that area. We believe it’s going to be a good demographic for us — for people coming from Anna Maria,” Perrier said.
Another Tampa Bay coffee shop that’s made its way down here is the St. Pete-based Kahwa Coffee, which now has multiple Sarasota-Manatee locations.
Its first local shop opened in downtown Sarasota, in a small space next door to a community acupuncture clinic. It has since added a location in Lakewood Ranch with a drive-thru and a recently opened spot in The Mall at University Town Center.
Its solid coffee blends are roasted in Tampa Bay and are pretty cheap as well, offering an affordable alternative to certain other coffee chains that will go unnamed.
Kahwa also sells a variety of pastries, nitro cold brew and more.